The Destination

Uttarakhand, a North Indian body politic, is one of the youngest states of independent India, which shares two international borders with The People’s Republic of China and Nepal, and two domestic borders with the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. In a more passionate way of words, it is a dialogue between the socio cultural way of life of Hindukush to its west and the Maha Kali Anchal to its east, nestled in the Central Himalayas. Famously known as the Abode of Gods, a state of this stature, a rich topography and a record of internal migration since time immemorial, can never be visited in isolation… well, poetically. Realistically, the state welcomes you with a summer escape from April to June, a drenched-in-monsoon beauty from July to September and snowy winter treks from October to March.

Ethnically, Kole was the first recorded race of Uttarakhand. But power struggle and continued immigration led to their defeat by the Kirats, who were defeated by Khasas, who were finally dominated by the Indo-Gangetic plain people. Katyuris were the earliest ruling dynasty but their fall led to the next ruling dynasties in these two regions i.e. the Chand dynasty (Kumaon) and the Parmar dynasty (Garhwal). Come to present Uttarakhand, we have two cultural regions i.e. Garhwal and Kumaon under which the 13 districts have been divided, along with many tribes. One could argue that it is the tribal groups of Uttarakhand who have, in fact, preserved many of their social customs and religious practices, and thus, are the actual bearers of the ancient cultural heritage of this state.

Till November 2000, Uttarakhand was an administrative district of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Through the Uttar Pradesh reorganization act, it came to be known by the name Uttaranchal and finally on the faithful day of 9 November, 2000, it became the 27th state of the Republic of India. It was renamed to Uttarakhand, inspiration most probably being puranic terms like Kedarkhanda and Manaskhanda. Present capital of the state is the city of Dehradun, although the town of Gairsain (Chamoli) has been envisioned as the future capital.

Geographically, it lies between the latitudes 28°43’ to 37° 28’10” N and longitudes 77°35’ to 80° 2’15”. It is further divided into four zones (1) Tarai-Bhabar eg Dehraduna & Kotdwara, (2) Lesser Himalayas eg Mussoorie & Lansdowne, (3) Greater Himalayas eg Nanda Devi & Kamet and (4) Trans-Himalayas i.e. Zaskar Range. Three river systems fertilize the land of this state, namely- (1) the Yamuna System rising from Yamunotri Glacier, (2) the Ganga System rising from Gangotri Glacier and (3) the Kali System rising in Kalapani, a collection of springs. Climate and vegetation vary with the elevation level, from warm, tropical zone at the lowest level (below 1980 feet) to perpetually frozen, Alpine zone (above 9900 feet).

86% of Uttarakhand’s total area is mountainous and further 65% is covered by forests. Brahma Kamal, which comes under the sunflower family, is the state flower. Other state symbols are Himalayan Monal as the state bird and Alpine Musk Deer as the state animal. Going by the 2011 census figures, 23.03% of the population speaks Garhwali, 19.94% speaks Kumaoni and 1.35% speaks Jaunsari. But since these are not recognized technically as languages, rather as dialects, Hindi is the official language of Uttarakhand, with Sanskrit as the additional official language.